It was a perfect day for the beach.  The Costa Rican sun was brilliant in a flawless blue sky.  Vibrant palm trees and tropical flowers flashed past the windows as the car sped towards the coast, the passengers growing more excited with each passing kilometer.  Natasha and her fellow German teammates had been serving in Costa Rica on a month-long outreach with Youth With A Mission.  They were all looking forward to a day of relaxing in the sun.

Suddenly, Nathasha saw flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror.  Her heart sank.  They’d been speeding.  This wasn’t a good start to their weekend.

“Pasaportes!”  Demanding to see everyone’s documentation, the policeman who pulled them over did not look at all friendly.  To her horror, Natasha realized they’d all left their passports with their team leaders at the YWAM base several kilometers away.  What would they do now?

Angrily the officer asked the German students what they were doing in Costa Rica.  Praying silently, Natasha calmly explained that they’d been working with a local Christian leader named Diego, serving in his church and distributing Bibles in the town.  At the mention of Diego’s name, the policeman’s countenance immediately softened.

Because of a Relationship…

“Ah, son amigos de Diego?”  Diego was well-known in the area for his humanitarian efforts in poor neighborhoods.  Smiling, the officer waved them on.  “Since you’re friends of Diego, I’ll let you go this time.”  Natasha and her team continued to the beach, amazed at the transformation that had occurred, all because of a relationship.

Just as Diego prepared the way for Natasha and her friends, there is One who has gone before us and bridged the gap to our Heavenly Father.  Jesus told His followers, “You did not choose Me but I chose you.  And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask Him in My name.” (John 15:16).  What power we have in that Name!  It’s not because of anything we’ve done, but because of the relationship we have with the Father, through the Son who intercedes for us!

Going vertical!

MJ

It’s 10pm and there’s a plum streusel calling me from the kitchen.  Distracting myself with organizing the books on my desk, I try to pretend it isn’t there.  I tell myself that I shouldn’t eat desserts this late at night.  I remind myself that I already had a generous piece after dinner tonight.  But my stomach isn’t listening to my brain.

“Just a small piece won’t hurt, right?  Think of those tart plums with the golden crumb topping, dusted with powdered sugar…”

These next two months teaching in Germany will be a real test of my will-power.  This is the land of soft pretzels, crisp waffles, and baked apple streudels.  How can I resist?  But there are worse temptations than plum streusel.

The two young girls who came into our Bible School’s storefront property Friday night already smelled of alcohol.  They had seen some of the students playing Wii Sports through the windows and wanted to see who we were and what was going on.

“We’re going to a party!” giggled the red-head.  “Yeah, and I’m not drunk, I swear!” laughed her tall friend with the jet-black hair.  Over cake and apple soda in the kitchen, we chatted for a few minutes, the girls’ feet dangling as they perched on the countertops.

“It’s so hard not to do drugs when all our friends are doing it,” the tall girl said. “Yeah, we only do it sometimes, but we can stop anytime,” chimed in her red-headed friend.  They were only 14.

What To Do With Temptation

My heart ached for these girls.  What could I say to them? I don’t know what their lives are like.  But I do know what it’s like to struggle with temptation.  I often do things I know I shouldn’t.  My eyes linger on things they shouldn’t see. My lips say things I later regret.  It’s easy to beat myself up about these things, thinking I just need to “try harder” and “be stronger.”

Paul’s letter to the Romans takes on new meaning for me tonight. “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  …Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15, 24-25).

There’s only one solution for those 14-year-old girls. It’s the only solution for any of us when we face temptations of any kind.  Only Jesus can rescue us.  You CAN be set free – through the power of Jesus Christ!

Going Vertical!
MJ

“Can I sing you a song?”  Sitting next to “Ye Ye,” my friend Jin’s grandfather, I held his hand as he rested on the couch.  Ye Ye nodded, looking pleased at my request.

I took a deep breath.  This was it.  The moment I’d been preparing for.  Countless hours of travel by plane and taxi and bus, navigating through multiple airports and cities, from my home in the eastern U.S. to this town in northeast Asia – all for this one man and this one conversation.

“Zhe yi sheng zui mei de zhu fu…”  As I sang, I prayed that the lyrics would penetrate his heart. “The most beautiful blessing in this life… is knowing Jesus.”

Confidence, Not Fear

When I finished singing, Ye Ye asked to see the lyrics.  Peering through his magnifying glass at the characters in my notebook, he listened as I shared about the joy Jesus has brought into my life.  I was surprised at how naturally the words flowed.  During the four years I lived in this restricted country, I had never been so bold in sharing my faith.  Fear held me back. Because of this, I worried that I wouldn’t know what to say, that it wouldn’t be the right time, that I would cause trouble for others, or that I would get deported from the country.

But the sole reason for my trip to Asia this time was to share with Jin’s grandfather about Jesus.  And this was the last day.  I knew that I had to talk with Ye Ye before I got on that plane back to the U.S.  Knowing my purpose gave me the confidence to speak.  The Lord had sent me, and it was His message of love that I was sharing. There was freedom and release in knowing that the results are not up to me.  I am only responsible to say what He tells me to say.

Do you know your purpose?  Do you know why you are here? Jesus’ sole purpose on earth was to do the will of His Father.  He said, “I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.  And the One who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him” (John 8:28-29).

I love the words of the old Westminster Catechism – “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”  There is no greater purpose, and there is no greater joy.

Going vertical!

MJ